Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lad Theory

Last Saturday, I was drawn into a random conversation with strangers at a friend's birthday party. I listened to a guy, mid-thirties, make generalizations about sex and love and make indirect asides about his ex-fiancee and his friends -- and then I piped up, "Oh, isn't this just ladder theory or Harry Met Sally stuff?" It didn't phase him -- he just said no, it was his own theory, and a good one, about how men can't be friends with women whom they're attracted to.

Like your eighteen-year-old cousin who makes up "quotes" that are actually misremembered lines from old Modest Mouse tunes, I find a certain type of guy tends to regurgitate the Ladder Theory, whether they've read it or heard it recycled in fraternity discussions or actually tapped into that original vein of nice-guy-resentment from which the theory springs. Guys are simple! they'll have sex with anyone. Girls are impossible! they have two ladders: guys they'll sleep with and guys they won't. The theory recycles familiar tropes like the "friend zone" and the "nice guy" -- though here they're given ever-affectionate terms like "abyss" and "intellectual whore."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Uninvited Other Identity We Sensed at the Fight Club

Sara and I went to see Shutter Island last Friday -- mostly because it was the film showing at the St. Louis Moolah Theatre (and who can pass up an opportunity to sit in leather couches in an old Masonic lodge, watching movies on a giant screen?), but partly because it was a thriller and partly because it's a Scorsese film and partly because of Leonardo DiCaprio. It's about two US federal marshals who come to investigate the disappearance of an escaped woman from a island-locked mental institution for the criminally insane.

And so the film begins rather provocatively: two men who barely know each other, visiting a very scary place on a very solitary island in what appears to be a thickening storm, trying to get information from increasingly recalcitrant and resistant hospital leaders and guards, mixed with unnecessary flashbacks to WW2 and their death camps which are meant to resonate with the possibly evil machinations of a hospital for the insane in the 1950s. So far so good, yes?

So does the film move in the direction of a horror film, where the lights go out, the storm sets in, and all the evil criminals run loose, doing unforeseen violence? or does the film move in the direction of a political thriller -- i.e. the push for further information slowly reveals deeper and darker levels of conspiracy and manipulation? or does the film become a psychological thriller, where the hero's psychological pressures begin to bleed into the dilemmas of the villains, unsettling reality as we know it?